Ms. Khan was named chair to the Federal Trade Commission in an unexpected move by the Biden administration, which speculators believe may implicate pending antitrust enforcement policy. She was confirmed to the seat on Tuesday, June 15th 2021 by the Senate.
Legal restrictions on anti-competitive behavior by dominant market participants were put in place during the Gilded Age of American history, where popular sentiment soured on large industrial companies. A select few industries abused their immense power to the detriment and destruction of workers’ lives, the environment, and the functioning of free markets.
If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessities of life. If we would not submit to an emperor, we should not submit to an autocrat of trade, with power to prevent competition and to fix the price of any commodity.”—Senator John Sherman, 1890
Some scholars of American law and history believe we are currently in a second Glided Age, where technology, intellectual property and financial law, and exclusionary economies of scale have begun to concentrate power and wealth to the detriment of the same groups:
We are four decades into a major political and economic experiment. What happens when the United States and other major nations weaken their laws meant to control the size of industrial giants? What is the impact of allowing unrestricted growth of concentrated private power, and abandoning most curbs on anticompetitive conduct?
-Tim Wu, The Curse of Bigness Introduction, 2018
The answers, I think, are plain. We have managed to recreate both the economics and politics of a century ago—the first Gilded Age—and remain in grave danger of repeating more of the signature errors of the twentieth century. As that era has taught us, extreme economic concentration yields gross inequality and material suffering, feeding an appetite for nationalistic and extremist leadership. Yet, as if blind to the greatest lessons of the last century, we are going down the same path. If we learned one thing from the Gilded Age, it should have been this: The road to fascism and dictatorship is paved with failures of economic policy to serve the needs of the general public.
Disclosure: antitrust policy enforcement would be financially and professionally favorable to myself
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